Regret: A Theology
Theologian Paul J. Griffiths is the author, co-author, and editor of over twenty books and hundreds of essays, articles, and translations. In Regret: A Theology, available from University of Notre Dame Press this month, he joins the growing list of Catholic theologians who are increasingly writing about everyday activities, such as writing, dressing, eating, cleaning, thinking, and arguing, which, according to Griffiths, “haven’t in the past been central to Catholic theology—not even to Catholic moral theology.”
Griffiths points out that we Americans have much to regret. “Our collective past,” he says, “like the past of all nations, is littered with atrocities, and our present isn’t free of them either; each of us is complicit in them.” Especially today, he continues, “in a very particular way, we lament the deaths of those who have died unnecessarily, and regret, I hope, our individual and collective failings that have made those deaths more numerous than they might have been."
In Regret, Griffiths examines attitudes encapsulated in the phrase, “I would it were otherwise,” including regret, contrition, remorse, compunction, lament, and repentance. He investigates the work of Henry James, Emily Dickinson, Tomas Tranströmer, Paul Celan, Jane Austen, George Herbert, and Robert Frost to show how regret is not a negative feature of human life but rather is essential for human flourishing and ultimately is to be patterned on the LORD’s regret.
The book has generated a great deal of interest. Francisca Aran Murphy, author of God is Not a Story, says, “It is a brilliant piece of analytic phenomenology, taking the reader through all the stages of regret.” David Bentley Hart, author of Theological Territories, calls the book, “wonderfully idiosyncratic, as is the case with all of Griffiths’s writings.” And Jonathan Malesic, in Commonweal writes, “The conversation it provokes may be quieter than what Griffiths has provoked in the past, but we need it nevertheless.”
You can read more about the book here in an interview with Griffiths.
Regret is available in paperback and digital editions from the University of Notre Dame Press. For more information about the book, contact: Kathryn Pitts, firstname.lastname@example.org, 574.631.3267